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When accuracy is no paltry matter

08 June 2018

Food Processing looks at a solution that automates the task of cutting poultry cubes - helping to ensure product consistency with minimal waste. 

A popular poultry product among Japanese consumers is kakugiri - cubes of deboned skin-on or skinless leg meat - with the cubes being widely used in both soups and fast food.

The task of cutting these poultry cubes is a stringent one as the Japanese culture demands that every piece of food should be the same one bite size and should look and taste exactly the same at all times.

Cutting the cubes manually requires a lot of skilled labour. For example, around 40 people are needed to cut one ton per hour of deboned chicken legs into kakugiri. According to Marel, automating the task with its I-Cut 122 can reduce labour costs, saving up to 30 people per shift. For each automated cube cutting line, 8 to 10 people are still required for product repositioning, inspecting for quality, checking weights and for packing.

In Japan Marel currently has 60 lines producing kakugiri. Poultry is also processed in a similar way in countries such as Brazil, China, Philippines and Thailand, both for export to Japan and for growing local consumption. The raw material in these countries is often less perfect than it is in Japan and because of this the portion cutting process has to be able to deal with awkward weights.

Kakugiri must be cut to very accurate weights, with tight tolerances for both shape and size. The Marel I-Cut 122 Portion Cutter offers a solution to meet these requirements for yield, size, weight, shape, quality and capacity, producing a uniform end product day in and day out.

To ensure that the best yield is always obtained - from the natural fluctuations in size, weight and shape of the raw material available - the I-Cut 122 really comes into its own as it has the ability to ensure that every cube is cut to specification, regardless of the input material, thanks to its integrated software. It is also possible to cut chicken steaks – large square cuts – from the thigh and cubes from the drum. 

Composite activity
Whatever cutting technique is used, cutting cubes of poultry in one go is not an option. The meat has to be cut twice, making it a composite activity for the machine’s software. Boneless legs or breast fillets fed to the machine have to be carefully scanned, measured and weighed to fit the recipe. I-Cut 122 then cuts each piece into multiple uniform narrow strips. These strips are turned 90 degrees and enter the portioning machine again on the other lane, where they are controlled by another programme and cut into cubes.

When it comes to cutting poultry, making the best use of the raw material is key and as demand for sized products continues to grow it is important to find an accurately calibrated cutting solution which helps ensure product continuity and minimal waste.

The I-Cut 122 portion cutter is suited to use on high speed in-line processes and can be used to portion non-frozen deboned poultry breast and thigh meat into the widest possible range of small to medium sized fixed weight and/or uniform dimension products with minimum giveaway.

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